What Stories are Told of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection?
1. Who was Veronica?
2. What is the Turin shroud?
3. Who was Simon of Cyrene?
4. Who was Joseph of Arimathea?
5. What was the Holy Grail?
6. Who guarded the tomb?
7. Who moved the stone?
8. Who first realized Jesus was risen?
9. Who did Jesus first appear to?
10. Who first spoke in tongues?
In the Bible, Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem as he carries his cross. Catholic tradition names one of the women as Veronica (a Latin version of Berenice, which means bearer of victory, though tradition includes the Greek eikon in the name, making it bearer of the image). Some traditions say she’s the woman who was healed of an issue of blood (establishing a prior connection between her and clothes touched by Jesus); others that she’s Martha, Lazarus’ sister. The story appears in the apocryphal Acts of Pilate. Some stories say Veronica’s veil was destroyed in the sack of Rome; others that it was never found; tradition says it had healing properties, just as Jesus’ garment did earlier.
The Turin shroud is believed by many to be the gravecloth that bound Jesus’ body. Modern studies of ancient customs have shown it to be correctly wrapped round the body for the time, and to bear accurate markings for a crucifixion. The face that appears in negative on the shroud is certainly a plausible image of Christ, and appears to have been well-known in history, since many old paintings reflect a similar image. Carbon dating hasn’t yet been conclusive, so it’s hard to prove the shroud is either fake or real. Perhaps, whether or not we believe it authentic, it makes a good modern day example of our instinct to view evidence through the lens of belief, and of the fact that God is more than science can ever prove.
Simon of Cyrene, father of two sons, was a passing pilgrim who helped Jesus carry his cross. Joseph of Arimathea gave his tomb for Jesus’ burial. He was probably a member of the Sanhedrin and a secret follower of Jesus, a reminder that in any court there are likely to be dissenters. Some say he was one of the seventy apostles sent out by Jesus. Legend has Joseph sailing to England with twelve followers to bring Christianity there – there is evidence that the Christian faith reached England before the Roman conquest. Joseph is said to have carried the Holy Grail, which was used for wine at the last supper, and which therefore contained Jesus’ blood (either miraculously, or from the cross), though the story probably dates back to an account as fictional in the middle ages as the movie “The Robe” is today.
Roman soldiers guarded Jesus’ tomb after his death (Matthew 27:65), at the request of the Pharisees. There’s a clear implication that they wanted to make sure no one stole the body. But it disappeared anyway, and the next day women going to anoint Jesus' flesh found an angel instead of a body. The gospel accounts don’t say who moved the stone, and there are no traditions laying the blame (though Mary Magdalene wanted to blame the authorities at first). There are no written traditions until centuries later of people venerating Jesus’ tomb, as would normally happen with a martyred leader, though there were traditions about its location which led to churches being built. There are Biblical accounts of Jesus appearing to people after the crucifixion. Paul claims that he appeared to 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6). Given how far Paul’s writings were disseminated, and how close to the events (physically, and in time) they were written, it’s hard to believe we wouldn’t have equally influential writings denying this if it hadn’t happened. But even Josephus contents himself with saying that people claim Jesus appeared after death. Then Jesus rose to heaven, the disciples hid in an upper room, and the Holy Spirit came upon them. At which point they speak in tongues but aren’t drunk.